Local knowledge paid off handsomely for the leaders on the first day of the Gary Player Invitational presented by Coca-Cola at Zimbali. And it didnÂt hurt to have a former Ryder Cup captain and one of South AfricaÂs most exciting young professionals to back that up.
Wessel Witthuhn, President of IFA Hotels & Resorts Africa and Indian Ocean, and former Proteas cricket star Shaun Pollock Â both of whom live at Zimbali and know the course intimately Â combined superbly to see them lead the amateur alliance competition on 15 under.
And they were on hand to give their professionals Â Mark James and George Coetzee Â a bit of advice that helped them to share the lead in the betterball competition with a score of eight-under-par 64.
ÂIt was a fantastic day. We played so well together, and itÂs just such a pleasure to be leading on my home course,Â said Witthuhn.
ÂIt was a really good team effort,Â added Pollock. ÂI know the lines on the greens quite well so could lend a hand there.Â
James was particularly impressed with the contribution of the amateurs in their team.
ÂI tell you something, Shaun is building for the senior tour. HeÂs that good. It was a huge help having him show us some of the lines off the tee and so on, as IÂve never played here before. And then Wessel plays here so often he was able to show us a few tricks as well,Â said James.
In joint second place in the amateur alliance competition are the pairings of football legend Lucas Radebe and businessman Dieter Schönfeld, and former Springbok Breyton Paulse and businessman Ron Boon on 11 under.
But Radebe and SchönfeldÂs professionals, Ian Woosnam and Jaco van Zyl, are tied for the lead in the betterball competition, also with a score of eight-under 64. Next best amongst the professionals is the duo of Peter Hanson and Sally Little on 67.
Tournament host Gary Player and James Kamte finished a challenging day with a betterball score of 69. But their amateurs Â businesswoman Claudia Schönfeld and England cricketer Paul Collingwood are lying third in the alliance competition on nine under.
ÂIt was such an honour playing with Gary,Â said Collingwood. ÂIt was just so amazing to see how well he still plays at the age of 76. And just to listen to him speaking and gain some insight into his life was an amazing experience.Â
Springbok Pierre Spies was just as in awe of the play of professional Lee-Anne Pace. Spies and businessman Kevin McNally finished the first day on eight under in the alliance competition, while Pace and Vincent Tshabalala combined for a betterball score of 69.
ÂIt was a tough day in the wind. But Lee-Anne hits the ball really far. I think we played well as a team, even though my own golf is a struggle at the moment,Â said Spies.
And Tony Johnstone was also rallying his team of Italian womenÂs professional Diana Luna and their amateurs Alan Pearson and Thomas Msengana for SundayÂs final round. They finished the day on seven under in the alliance and with a 70 for the betterball.
ÂDonÂt worry, weÂll make a big move on Sunday,Â Johnstone told his team. ÂWeÂve got it in usÂ.
By Michael Vlismas